One day when I was about six years old, my siblings and I (for whatever reason) decided to take turns shutting each other in an old clothes chest. It was great fun…until someone accidentally closed the sticky lock while I was inside. I don’t know how long I was in there, but it felt like at least an hour, while my siblings scrambled to find a way to break open the lock. There were decent-sized holes on either end of the chest, so I wasn’t in any danger of suffocation, but I did start to think I might be stuck in there forever, being fed with tiny portions through the air holes.
Fortunately, my parents (once they were told) had better sense than my young imagination. I think someone was getting ready to call 911 when my dad finally got the chest open. I breathed the free air, stretched my cramped limbs, and vowed never ever to get inside such a tight space again for as long as I lived. By the way, would someone please confirm that I am 100% dead before you put my coffin in the ground? Thanks in advance.
In case you hadn’t guessed, I have had a bit of claustrophobia ever since. Thankfully, it has never progressed beyond a moderate discomfort while exploring the bunkers at Fort McHenry or walking through an old submarine at Pearl Harbor. I am usually fine in places like elevators and airplanes, so this fear doesn’t often affect my everyday life. It is more of a segue into a funny story for me, really.
Other fears, however, can carry a more serious note. I have never thought of myself as a big worrier, but I have recently begun to realize how much I let fear creep into my everyday life, especially as it concerns my children. I think my capacity for fear was greatly increased when they came along, and it seems to get worse the older they get. While some fears are assuaged as they grow, there are always more—and usually greater—fears to replace them.
Now, it can be good to have a “healthy fear” of certain things…We as parents need to be aware of potential dangers and strive to protect our children wherever appropriate. At the same time, however, we can’t let our cautionary fears get out of hand and become something that cripples either us or them.
What do I fear for my children? Here are a few examples:
- In pregnancy, I fear that I will lose them before they are even born.
- In infancy, I fear they will suddenly stop breathing and pass away in their sleep.
- As they grow and explore, I fear for their physical safety – around the road, in high places, etc.
- Regarding their health, I fear they might catch some serious illness or be diagnosed with a terminal disease.
- Out and about, I fear kidnappers and sexual predators that might harm them if I let them out of my sight.
- As they begin to spread their wings, I fear they may make choices they will later regret.
- As I follow politics, I fear that terrible people will be elected to office, and my husband and I will lose some of our freedom to protect and provide for our children as we think we should.
I think most of these are fairly common parental worries, and again, it’s not that we shouldn’t have a “healthy fear” about them that motivates us to do our part. But I think we might do well to consider how much we feed these fears, and to question where the line of “healthy” lies. Am I losing sleep over these worries? Am I often finding myself on edge? Do I panic when one of these fears seems to be even a possibility? Is the worry negatively affecting my daily life?
When my worries for my children start to overwhelm me, I have to remember, first of all, that I am not, and never have been, in ultimate control of my children’s future. This realization can initially be unnerving…“You mean I can’t protect my babies?!” the Mama Bear in me cries. But this truth can also be freeing when we realize Who is in control. It is the One Who formed the earth and all that is in it. Our children are in good hands.
Of course, there is a role we as parents play in His plan—and of utmost importance is our role in encouraging their relationship with Him. But the results are up to Him, not us. He loves them even more and knows what they need even better than we do. (see 1 Cor. 1:25, Rom. 8:32)
In addition, I have to remember that God has led our family through difficult situations before. When our oldest was born not breathing; when one of our children underwent a major surgery; when we lost a little one to miscarriage…God got us through. I know many who have gone through much worse, and it is a testament to both their faith and the power of God that they press on. He is always there to comfort and sustain, no matter what trials we may face. (see Deut. 31:6, Ps. 34:18)
This is not to say that surrendering our children to Him is simple. The troubles of this world are real, painful, and scary…It is very tempting to try to snatch our children right back out of His hands! But again, the reality is we couldn’t do it even if we tried. It can be a daily struggle for me accept that, and I fail at it probably more often than not. But I know it is best to humbly trust in Him, for both my sake and my children’s.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God […], casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.” -1 Peter 5:6-7
Photo Credit: First photo graphic design by Charity Klicka; all other photos taken by Jessica Cole.